A2 Religious Language part two

Inadequacy of language and symbols


Jewish, Muslim and Puritan traditions forbid the representation of God in images, statues or art. Muslim philosophy developed the double negative:

God is not a being –but he is also not a non-being!!

Hindus’ experience of images is such that worshippers know that the statue is not God, so they keep them – it gives a concrete focus for prayer or worship.

Roman Catholics use a rosary or statue of the saints, Buddhists use a mandala…

Conclusion: we only talk about God at one remove – our symbols, images, metaphors are just that and no more! They point to God, put us in touch with God, lead to God… (but we cannot speak from sure knowledge!)

The sceptic would ask – if our language can only say what God is not then are these statements true?

What is truth? It isn’t something which can be broken down into little chunks and verified in this case: A believer says, “I believe,” not a list of facts or truths.

So what a person believe in is just as good as what the next believes in if it can’t be checked; however if you want your belief to be taken seriously you have to be able to explain it in some way to a non-believer. You have to use language – however inadequate.



Said that truth is subjective; really important truths are personal – true for me – 2+2 = 4 is true, certain, and verifiable but not relevant. If you fall into deep water you are not concerned with whether you can drown but if you will live or die!

He believes that there’s a fundamental difference between the philosophical debate over whether God exists and the individual’s take on the same question – the first is objective and irrelevant, the second is subjective and all important.

Reality therefore is not confined to what is subject to reason – there are other non-rational realities like values and imperatives. (What principles we live our lives by and what motivates and drives us.)



Asserted that God was only a projection of our desires –

However while it might be true that God can only be experienced as a projection it does not follow that there is no reality behind the experience.


Did you find this information helpful?